NYU students show up at the polls in smaller numbers than their counterparts nationwide, according to reports from Tufts University. Owing to this, and to the student body’s declining voting rate, the university has made renewed efforts to get its students to the polls ahead of the upcoming November midterm elections.
Part of these increased efforts includes early voting registration drives during Welcome Week, shoutouts in NYU’s Reality Show and more publicized registration opportunities at the Kimmel Center for Student Life.
NYU receives voter turnout data from Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education each election year; although this information is not publicly available, WSN obtained reports from the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections and the 2014 midterm elections. The institute offers the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, a program to help United States colleges and universities gauge student registration rates, voter turnout rates and campus climates towards civic engagement.
In NSLVE reports, the voting rate in the 2014 midterm elections was 9.6 percent at NYU, almost 10 percentage points below the average voting rate for all institutions. While the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections saw significantly higher voter turnout rates compared to the midterms, NYU’s turnout numbers were still below the average voting rate for all institutions.
“[W]e have certainly stepped up our registration efforts this year,” university spokesperson Shonna Keogan said in an email to WSN. “The main motivator has been the NSLVE reports from Tufts, where the data indicate NYU’s voter participation is both below the national average for universities and in fact decreasing over time.”
Since the 2014 midterms had low voter turnout, NYU hopes that its increased voting initiatives combined with newfound enthusiasm for political processes will increase voter turnout rates in the 2018 midterms.
“Some of you might even be voting for the first time, which is very exciting,” NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in an email to the NYU community. “And regardless of where you reside on the ideological spectrum, I think we can all agree that we live amid an extraordinarily fraught time in our nation’s history that calls for more involvement and more civic engagement. And that makes voting a priority.”
Many NYU students feel that the university’s promotion of voting has been successful in raising awareness on the election process.
Gallatin sophomore Piers Clark registered to vote at one of Kimmel’s voter registration drives and found NYU’s initiatives simplified the process, which encouraged him to cast a vote in the upcoming midterms.
“They have [influenced me to vote] because online you need to have a New York driver’s license to vote, but here, the form they gave out overrode that, so I didn’t have to do that,” Clark said.
First-time voter Coby Hilelly, a Tisch first-year, also appreciated NYU’s efforts to encourage voting, but saw the underlying intentions of it as too partisan.
“I definitely agree that they should encourage voting, but I think that they should do it in a nonpartisan way,” Hilelly said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been directly told by my teachers who to vote for, but you can tell that they’re taking sides. We all have opinions, but I do think that it would be fair for everyone to encourage voting but not necessarily who to vote for.”
Regardless of the outcomes of the midterm elections, many feel voting is an important civic duty everyone should partake in. First-time voter and Tisch first-year Anna Solasz stressed how important the elections are for NYU students.
“I think it [voting] is important because it is our duty. It behooves our generation to take a stand and make sure that we’re represented in our government,” Solasz said.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 22 print edition. Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]